Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam mentions a harrowing prospect
Terrorism In Border Areas was considered a thing of the past and the Pakistani state proclaimed its victory loudly on any forum it got access to claiming it to be its singular success. However, the victory appears to have been short-lived as the scourge is apparently coming back alive and with a vengeance.
It has not only started claiming lives but has also incited public protests against the very authorities that once claimed controlling it that has become evident by the fact when the locals of Swat’s Charbagh tehsil and Shangla’s Alpari took to the streets in continuation of their series of protests against the spate of terrorism in the scenic valley, demanding authorities to clamp down on elements ruining the peace in the area.
The protests were joined by the elders, youth, and children who warned that they might take up arms to tackle terrorists if the authorities failed to play their due role. Significantly it was the eighth protest of the series since the resurfacing of the terror activities in just one month.
The so-called peace of the border areas was a forced acceptance of a status quo during which harassed displaced people were not allowed to talk and if they did they could narrate their woes only in hushed tones. It was only with the emergence of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in 2018 that silence was broken and matters came to the fore but then PTM became the prime enemy of the state.
The fact that the Taliban’s re-conquest of Afghanistan has emboldened their brethren in Pakistan and that they are steadily reclaiming their lost hold in border areas of Pakistan is not openly acknowledged. Instead, local elements such as PTM, who are struggling for their rights within united Pakistan are penalized.
The situation was exacerbated when the official line taken was to support the Afghan Taliban takeover of Kabul and there was even celebration within the Pakistani mainstream at the fact that a friendly government had yet again been installed in Kabul.
In this mindset what could be expected of the militant fringe that could not exercise control over anything in Afghanistan and has been assured of a separate part of the tribal area of Pakistan to be given to rule as a buffer? It is more than clear that the Taliban government in Kabul is certainly not singing uncritically to Islamabad’s tune and is upending the strategic depth concept pursued by the Pakistani establishment much to its chagrin and rendering it virtually helpless.
It is also clear that unlike in the past, the people of borderlands will not stand idle and will resist making matters doubly difficult for law enforcers. These intentions have become evident in the protesters on the streets of Swat. Those currently on the streets in Swat are pronouncing clearly that they have no intention of being duped by anyone again, not least of all by those who act in the name of national security as they have had enough in the past.
The collective consciousness of the people has taken time to emerge in Pakistan but it has emerged eventually and the arbitrary forces are desperately trying to control it. This consciousness is witnessed in many local movements throughout the length and breadth of the country with the Pashtun border areas leading the way led by the youth. Baloch youth are still rated on the periphery but it is quite evident that their activities could only be controlled by applying high levels of the punitive tools of state control.
Terrorism In Border Areas
Many urban and rural areas of Sindh also erupt in troubles fomented by locally inspired emotional issues that are dealt with forcefully without realizing that such tactics yield only temporary results and require long-term solutions. The re-emergence of terrorism in border areas is required to be viewed from this perspective as it is the offshoot of the so-called war of war on terror that was unleashed without taking into consideration the sensitivities of the populations of the areas, their traditions, and their economic patterns.
It is extremely frustrating that despite knowing the identity of the groups engaged in terrorism the official policy is to keep on hedging their identity and trying to convey the impression that the issue is not very serious and could soon come under control.
The government spokesmen emphasize that some splinter groups opposed to the faltering peace talks between the state and the banned TTP were behind the upsurge in violence but it is very difficult to agree with this assertion as the TTP and its splinter groups are amorphous in nature coming together when the need arises and separating when the situation demands it.
It is widely acknowledged that TTP is a composite whole firmly controlled by a potent center with strong support from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that has deep, even filial, links with it and is committed to their cause and would go to any extent to support it.
The strategy of the militants is to gradually make their presence felt and the only means they know is terror which they very potently employ. In the process, they have very little to lose as they are experts in guerilla warfare and have successfully waged it against the western alliance for more than two decades despite much superior wherewithal at their disposal.
TTP Militants And TTP-Government
Actually, the return of TTP militants was presaged by the TTP-government negotiations held in Kabul but no agreement was reached to this effect as it was not intended by the TTP as well as the Afghan regime. It was to gauge the intention of Pakistani policymakers and to assure its fighters that the opposition considers it a potent force worthy of talks.
This factor was picked up by the local residents who had borne the futility of such consultations before and are now unwilling to go through the process again. The issue now is that a spike in the TTP’s activities has raised serious concerns about the efficacy of a deal to end violence in the country.
Although there has been no formal announcement, signaling an end to the ceasefire, it is practically off the cards as the militant group routinely claims responsibility for targeted attacks. The only difference is that the TTP now uses words such as attacks in defense when claiming such attacks but under no pretext, TTP could justify attacks on peace committee members in Swat and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
With the frequency of attacks being carried out by the militants increasing each month, it seems unlikely that another round of talks would start anytime soon. It now appears however that the government is creating ground for taking tough punitive ground for tackling terrorism in the border areas as is evident by the statements of politicians in the parliament asking for taking action against the terrorists through military effort as they do not adhere to any agreement. This is the only way out as the state cannot ignore this serious matter anymore. The Weekender